Outside Looking In: What Do Teachers of Young Children Need to Know about Substance Use Disorder and the Stigma Attached To It?

Henry and Sam at the gate

What do we know about early childhood educators’ understanding of substance use disorder? As we’ve discussed previously in this blog, there are not a lot of resources out there for teachers working with children affected by familial substance use disorder (see Resources for a few suggestions about where to go for more information). But does this mean that teachers don’t understand it? And if they don’t, what kind of information will be most useful as they work with young children living with SUD?

My project over the next few months is to learn more about how living with substance use disorder affects the social, emotional and cognitive development of children under the age of six. I am especially interested in studying the family dynamics that have been identified in families where one or more caregiver has this disease, and how characteristic communication patterns may impact identity development and the child’s ability to succeed socially and academically in the childcare or school environment.

Since there seems to be limited information about this challenge targeted to early educators, I am interested in focusing on literature outside of the education field, specifically, in the fields of addictions and social work. I will be reporting on my findings in this blog.

I’ve also blogged about the stigma attached to substance use disorder and how it impacts parents (read about this here). Is there additional research that would help teachers to uncover their biases and so work more effectively with families and children affected by this disease? I’m interested in that, as well, and will be sharing whatever information I glean right here!

It’s time that we, as a society, got real about this public health crisis and how it is impacting our children. For all of us, in one way or another, are outside, looking in…and so are the children we care so much about.

6 thoughts on “Outside Looking In: What Do Teachers of Young Children Need to Know about Substance Use Disorder and the Stigma Attached To It?

  1. Stephanie,
    This is a topic that I have never heard of. After reading your blog, this is a very interesting topic and I would love to learn more about it. I have had children in my classroom with varying disorders but never this one.

  2. Stephanie,

    This is such an important and relevant topic to research!

    While reading your blog entry, I could not help but think about one of my students who was in my classroom my first year of teaching. Her father struggled with a substance use disorder, and she often observed (and then shared to my assistant and I) what she had seen, with demonstrations. It broke our hearts to know what she had been exposed to, and we wondered to ourselves what she even understood about what she saw and what she was showing us at the young age of four, and how this would impact all aspects of her life as she grew up.

    I look forward to reading more about this topic as you learn and share the information and resources that you find with us. At the time, my assistant and I had to seek assistance from colleagues before we could respond to this student, as our own personal knowledge about this topic was limited.

    I am confident that your research will be able to help many early childhood educators today!

    Julie

  3. Stephanie,
    This is a great topic – I look forward to reading your blog and discovering some new resources to bring to my work with children and families.

    Patti

  4. Stephine,
    Substance abuse is such a desecrating disease that kills from the inside out and affects the whole family. I know being a child of a father that live struggle with this disease that robbed him of his family and his life style. I watched him literally change from the strong man I grew up loving into a shell of a man, not on his own terms, but under the control of the substance. He was my hero, for I was a daddy’s little girl. My life changed as a result of this, which led to my dad literally becoming a monster in my eyes. Thank God, he didn’t let this taint me, but made me strong, the woman of God I am today. So please do the research, it is needed.
    Joy Overflowing,
    April

  5. Stephanie
    This is a powerful subject . As teachers, there is line we have to walk when it comes to intervening in the personal lives of our students. How can we help without overstepping the boundaries? Are we qualified to give aid? Or do we act as agents of resources? Will our help be wanted? Good luck,.

  6. Pingback: Here a Policy, There a Policy, Everywhere a Policy: Trying to Understand the Policy Maze and How It Impacts Early Childhood Mental Health | Imagination on the Move

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